The important collection dates from approximately 1660 to 1675 and includes Native American made and European trade goods.
The Leibharts are arguably the most famous family in collecting early York County Susquehannock artifacts. Beginning as early as 1929, two brothers—Oscar and Byrd Leibhart—began digging for artifacts at sites in York County, PA.
This tradition continued with Oscar’s son—Donald Leibhart—whose collection Cordier Auctions is now offering for the first time for sale to the public. Donald, a veteran of World War II, died at the age of 96 in June of 2016.
The family’s finds have been documented in such books as Barry Kent’s Susquehanna’s Indians1, which details one burial pit Donald Leibhart excavated that yielded numerous complete pieces. Kent writes “This unusual burial, together with the rather abundant interior-exterior cord-marked pottery scattered over the site is ample evidence of the significant Early Woodland occupation there.”
The items in the collection were excavated in the 1950’s from what is believed to have been a village of approximately 1200 Susquehannock living near Long Level in York County. Items of particular interest include more than a dozen examples of extremely rare cooking pots. While fragments of these pots survive in abundance, finding complete or nearly complete examples is extremely uncommon.
Also of note is a possibly unique carved banded slate figure or birdstone in the form of a bird with large eyes, as well as numerous pottery and stone smoking pipes. Pipes were among the most highly prized items among the Susquehannock.
The collection also includes many examples of raretrade beads produced in Europe for export to the colonies and used to trade with Native Americans.
“This is one of the most significant collections of Susquehannock artifacts to come on the market in decades,” says David Cordier, of Cordier Auctions. “The pieces in this collection have been known to historians, archaeologists and collectors for decades but this is the first time that they will be offered at an un-reserved sale.”
The Susquehannock are first thought to have arrived in the Susquehanna River Valley sometime in the 1500s. Although their settlements were spread out over much of the region, their villages were highly concentrated in both York and Lancaster Counties. Captain John Smith, the English explorer, first encountered the tribe near the mouth of the Susquehanna River at Have de Grace (Maryland) where he is thought to have named them after the river. The Susquehannock flourished in the region until the 1670s when they were defeated in battle and ultimately absorbed into other tribes.
The collection will be offered as part of Cordier’s Fall Antique and Fine Art Auction, to be held over the course of two days on November 12 and 13 in their auction house at 1500 Paxton Street, Harrisburg. The Leibhart Collection will start the second day of the sale, with bidding opening at 10 AM on November 13. Bidders are invited to preview the collection at Cordier’s auction house on Friday, November 11, from 2 PM to 6 PM, and beginning at 8 AM on Saturday and Sunday.
1Susquehanna’s Indians, Anthropological Series Number 6; Barry Kent; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission 2001.